America Online Inc. Wednesday previewed
the release of its Netscape 6
browser. The maker of the Web-browsing software at the center of the U.S.
government’s antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. unveiled a leaner
version of its programming code, reducing the overall size of the browser.
As a part of the browser launch, America Online (AOL)
and Gateway Inc.
plan to introduce a family of specialized Internet appliances to promote
AOL’s instant access strategy. Both Netscape 6 and the new Internet
appliances are powered by Netscape’s Gecko browser engine technology.
In contrast to Internet Explorer’s focus on Windows, Netscape’s ubiquitous
Gecko browser will run not only on Microsoft’s (MSFT)
Windows platforms, but also the
Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL) and
Macintosh and Linux operating systems, the two chief rivals to Windows.
Netscape 6 is also programmed to work on Internet devices like TV set-top
boxes and Web-based kiosks.
Steve Case, AOL chairman and chief executive officer, touted the browser’s
open source code that enables users to take the Internet with them,
anywhere they go.
“Our next-generation Netscape 6 browser will provide consumers with new
opportunities to enjoy the versatility of the interactive medium, anywhere,
anytime and any way they want,” Case said.
“Powered by the open source Gecko technology, Netscape 6 will deliver more
robust and lively content with new levels of speed, convenience and
customization, and will allow people to take advantage of innovative new
applications that reside on the Web, not just on their desktops,” Case added.
In his keynote Wednesday at Spring Internet World 2000, Case said he hoped the new browser will be adopted aggressively. To help in that goal, the company will soon kick off an aggressive television and print advertising campaign. The effort will mark Netscape’s first large marketing foray outside the Internet.
Programmers tossed the old code and started fresh to design Netscape 6, which
features faster to downloads and streamlined installation. Users can
download additional components for e-mail or Internet phone calling, but
exclude other items, reducing the overall size of the browser.
Barry Schuler, AOL president of interactive services, said Netscape 6 and
its Gecko browser engine will fuel the next wave of the Internet that will
run on multiple platforms and many devices in addition to the traditional PC.
“Built from the ground up, Netscape 6 is a completely new browser that
delivers a more robust and lively Internet experience,” Schuler said.
“Gecko not only powers our new browser, but also anchors the mission
critical technology that enables consumers and businesses to access the
Internet from anywhere.”
Expounding on the product features at Internet World, Schuler said the streamlined Gecko browsing engine addresses the fact that much of the Internet’s activity growth will focus outside the PC sector.
“PCs will continue to be important, but there will also be a wide variety of devices. The browsing engine of the future needs to be multi-platform and multi-device. It will become the module on which people can build software,” he said.
New to Netscape 6 are a variety of user options including “My Sidebar,” a
fully customizable feature that lets consumers keep the online functions
and information from a variety of sources. Already several
content providers including CNN and eBay (EBAY)
have developed tabs for the new sidebar feature.
Additional user options include accessing Netscape Instant Messenger, and
the ability to access multiple e-mail accounts at the same time. Like other
popular portals, Netscape 6 allows users to personalize the themes of their
Netscape 6 added an automatic translation feature based on Gist-in-Time
programming from Alis Technologies
Inc., which translates Web pages in a single mouse click. Finally,
Netscape 6 features a cookie manager, which allows consumers to accept or
block cookies from being placed on their hard drives.
The software that created the first Internet explosion and once held
nearly a 90 percent market share, faces an uphill battle against
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which still ships in every Windows PC and
holds nearly 70 percent of the market.
In an effort to take back some of its market share, AOL is launching a huge
advertising campaign to promote Netscape 6.
America Online is running a series of advertisements in national newspapers
and magazines, and on broadcast and cable television networks promoted
Netscape 6 as “The power of the Internet made simple.”
AOL’s Case said the launch of Netscape 6 takes AOL’s mobile marketing
strategy to a new level.
“These groundbreaking Internet appliances take our AOL Anywhere strategy to
another level, Case said. “These devices advance our goal of extending
easy-to-use AOL-branded interactive services to new devices, and embedding
them into consumers’ everyday lives.”
“Both of these important initiatives, along with our merger with Time Warner Inc. (TWX)
further advance our mission to build a global medium as central to people’s
lives as the telephone or television, and even more valuable,” Case added.